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eth´iks :

I. Nature and Function of Ethics

1. Rise of Ethics

2. Ethics as a Science

3. A N ormative Science

4. Relation to Cognate Sciences

(1) Ethics and Metaphysics

(2) Ethics and Psychology

The "Ought"

5. Relation of Christian Ethics to Moral Philosophy

(1) Not an Opposition

(2) Philosophical Postulates

(3) Method

6. Relation of Christian Ethics to Dogmatics

(1) The Connection

(2) The Distinction

(3) Theological Postulates

(a) The Christian Idea of God

(b) The Christian Doctrine of Sin

(c) The Responsibility of Man

II. Historical Sketch of Ethics

1. Greek Philosophy

(1) Sophists

(2) Socrates

(3) Plato

(4) Aristotle

(5) Stoics and Epicureans

(6) Stoicism

(7) Stoicism and Paul

2. Scholasticism

3. Reformation

Descartes and Spinoza

4. English Moralists

5. Utilitarianism

6. Evolutionary Ethics

7. Kant

8. German Idealists

(1) Hegel

(2) Watchwords: Pleasure and Duty

III. Principles and Characteristics of Biblical Ethics

1. Ethics of the Old Testament

(1) Religious Characteristics of Hebrew Ethics

(a) The Decalogue

(b) Civil Laws

(c) Ceremonial Laws

(d) Prophecy

(e) Books of Wisdom

(f) Apocryphal Books

(2) Limitations of Old Testament Ethics

(a) As to Intent

(b) As to Extent

2. Outline of New Testament Ethics

(1) Ethics of Jesus and Paul

(2) Character

(3) Inwardness of Motive

(4) Ultimate End

3. The Ethical Ideal

(1) Holiness

(2) Christlikeness

(3) Brotherhood and Unity of Man

4. The Dynamic Power of the New Life

(1) The Dynamic on Its Divine Side

(2) The Dynamic on Its Human Side

5. Virtues, Duties and Spheres of the New Life

(1) The Virtues

(a) The Heroic Virtues

(b) The Amiable Virtues

(c) The Theological Virtues

(2) The Duties

(a) Duties toward Self

(b) Duties in Relation to Others

(c) Duties in Relation to God

(3) Spheres and Relationships

6. Conclusion

Absoluteness, Inwardness and Universality

Literature

In this article, which proposes to be of a general and introductory character, we shall first deal with the nature and function of ethics generally, showing its difference from and relation to other cognate branches of inquiry. Secondly, we shall sketch briefly the history of ethics in so far as the various stages of its development bear upon and prepare the way for Christian ethics, indicating also the subsequent course of ethical speculation. Thirdly, we shall give some account of Biblical ethics ; treating first of the main moral ideas contained in the Old Testament, and enumerating, secondly, the general principles and leading characteristics which underlie the ethical teaching of the New Testament.

I. Nature and Function of Ethics

Ethics is that branch of philosophy which is concerned with human character and conduct. It deals with man, not so much as a subject of knowledge, as a source of action. It has to do with life or personality in its inward dispositions, outward manifestations and social relations. It was Aristotle who first gave to this study its name and systematic form. According to the Greek signification of the term, it is the science of customs (ἠθικά , ēthiká , from ἦθος , ḗthos , "custom," "habit," "disposition"). But inasmuch as the words "custom" and "habit" seem to refer only to outward manners or usages, the mere etymology would limit the nature of the inquiry. The same limitation exists in the Latin designation, "moral," since mores concerns primarily manners.

1. Rise of Ethics

Men live before they reflect, and act before they examine the grounds of action. So long as there is a congruity between the habits of an individual or a people and the practical requirements of life, ethical questions do not occur. It is only when difficulties arise and new problems appear as to right and duty in which the existing customs of life offer no solution, that doubt awakes, and with doubt reflection upon the actual morality which governs life. It is when men begin to call in question their past usages and institutions and to read-just their attitude to old traditions and new interests that ethics appears. Ethics is not morality but reflection upon morality. When, therefore, Aristotle, following Socrates and Plato, employed the term, he had in view not merely a description of the outward life of man, but rather the sources of action and the objects as ends which ought to guide him in the proper conduct of life. According to the best usage the names Moral Philosophy and Ethics are equivalent and mean generally the rational explanation of our nature, actions and relations as moral and responsible beings. Ethics therefore may be defined as the systematic study of human character, and its function is to show how human life must be fashioned to realize its end or purpose.

2. Ethics as a Science

But accepting this general definition, how, it may be asked, can we speak of a science of conduct at all? Has not science to do with necessary truths, to trace effects from causes, to formulate general laws according to which these causes act, and to draw inevitable and necessary consequences? But is not character just that concerning which no definite conclusions can be predicted? Is not conduct, dependent as it is on the human will, just that which cannot be explained as the resultant of calculable forces? If the will is free then you cannot decide beforehand what line it will take, or predict what shape character must assume. The whole conception of a science of ethics, it is contended, must fall to the ground if we admit an invariable and calculable element in conduct. But this objection is based partly upon a misconception of the function of science and partly upon a too narrow classification of the sciences. Science has not only to do with cause and effect and the laws according to which phenomena actually occur. Science seeks to deal systematically with all truths that are presented to us; and there is a large class of truths not belonging indeed to the realm of natural and physical events which, however, may be studied and correlated. Ethics is not indeed concerned with conduct, as a natural fact, as something done here and now following from certain causes in the past and succeeded by certain results in the future. It is concerned with judgments upon conduct - the judgment that such conduct is right or wrong as measured by a certain standard or end. Hence, a distinction has been made between the physical sciences and what are called normative sciences.

3. A N ormative Science

The natural or physical sciences are concerned simply with phenomena of Nature or mind, actual occurrences which have to be analyzed and classified. The normative sciences, on the other hand, have to do not with mere facts in time or space, but with judgments about these facts, with certain standards or ends (norms, from norma , "a rule") in accordance with which the facts are to be valued. Man cannot be explained by natural law. He is not simply a part of the world, a link in the chain of causality. When we reflect upon his life and his relation to the world we find that he is conscious of himself as an end and that he is capable of forming purposes, of proposing new ends and of directing his thoughts and actions with a view to the attainment of these ends, and making things subservient to him. Such an end or purpose thus forms a norm for the regulation of life; and the laws which must be observed for the attainment of such an end form the subjects of a normal or normative science. Ethics therefore has to do with the norm or standard of right or wrong, and is concerned primarily with the laws which regulate our judgments and guide our actions.

4. Relation to Cognate Sciences

Man is of course a unity, but it is possible to view his self-consciousness in three different aspects, and to regard his personality as constituted of an intellectual, sentient and volitional element. Roughly corresponding to these three aspects, one in reality but separable in thought, there arise three distinct though interdependent mental sciences: metaphysics , which has to do with man's relation to the universe of which he forms a part; psychology , which deals with the nature, constitution and evolution of his faculties and feelings as a psychical being; and ethics , which treats of him as a volitional being, possessing will or determining activity.

(1) Ethics and Metaphysics

Ethics, though distinct from, is closely connected with metaphysics on the one hand, and psychology on the other. If we take metaphysics in its widest sense as including natural theology and as positing some ultimate end to the realization of which the whole process of the world is somehow a means, we may easily see how it is a necessary presupposition or basis of ethical inquiry. The world as made and governed by and for an intelligent purpose, and man as a part of it, having his place and function in a great teleological cosmos, are postulates of the moral life and must be accepted as a basis of all ethical study. The distinction between ethics and metaphysics did not arise at once. In early Greek philosophy they were closely united. Even now the two subjects cannot be completely dissociated. Ethics invariably runs back into metaphysics, or at least into theology, and in every philosophical system in which the universe is regarded as having an ultimate end or good, the good of human beings is conceived as identical with or included in the universal good (see Ziegler, Gesch. der christlichen Ethik ; also Sidgwick, History of Ethics ).

(2) Ethics and Psychology

On the other hand ethics is closely associated with, though distinguishable from, psychology . Questions of conduct inevitably lead to inquiries as to certain states of the agent's mind, for we cannot pronounce an action morally good or bad until we have investigated the qualities of intention, purpose, motive and disposition which lie at the root of the action. Hence, all students of ethics are agreed that the main object of their investigation must belong to the psychical side of human life, whether they hold that man's ultimate end is to be found in the sphere of pleasure or they maintain that his well-being lies in the realization of virtue. Questions as to existence, evolution and adequacy of a moral faculty (see CONSCIENCE ); as to the relation of pleasure and desire; as to the meaning of validity of voluntary action; as to the historical evolution of moral customs and ideals, and man's relation at each stage of his being to the social, political and religious institutions, belong indeed to a science of ethics, but they have their roots in psychology as a study of the human soul.

The very existence of a science of ethics depends upon the answers which psychology gives to such questions. If, for example, we decide that there is no such faculty in man as conscience and that the moral sense is but a natural manifestation which has gradually evolved with the physical and social evolution of man (Darwin, Spencer); or if we deny the self-determining power of human beings and assume that the freedom of the will is a delusion, or in the last resort a negligible element, and treat man as one of the many phenomena of a physical universe, then indeed we may continue to speak of a science of the moral life as some naturalistic writers do, but such a science would not be a science of ethics as we understand it. Whatever be our explanation of conscience and freedom, no theory as to these powers must depersonalize man, and we may be justly suspicious of any system of psychology which undermines the authority of the moral sense or paves the way for a complete irresponsibility.

The "Ought"

Ethics is based on the assumption that man is a person possessing rights and having duties - responsible therefore for his intentions as well as his actions. The idea of personality involves not only a sense of accountability but carries with it also the conception of a law to which man is to conform, an ideal at which he is to aim. The end of life with all its implications forms the subject of ethics. It is concerned not simply with what a man is or does, but more particularly with what he should be and do. Hence, the word "ought" is the most distinctive term of ethics. The "ought" of life constitutes at once the end or ideal and the law of man. It comprises end , rule and motive of action. Thus the problem of ethics comes to be regarded as the highest good of man, the τὸ ἀγαθόν , tó agathón , of the Greeks, the summum bonum of Latin philosophy.

5. Relation of Christian Ethics to Moral Philosophy

If ethics generally is based upon the postulates of philosophy and psychology, and at each stage of human consciousness grounds its principles of life upon the view of the world and of man to which it has attained, Christian ethics presupposes the Christian view of life as revealed by Christ, and its definition must be in harmony with the Christian ideal. Christian ethics is the science of morals conditioned by Christianity, and the problems which it discusses are the nature, laws and duties of the moral life as dominated by the Supreme Good which Christians believe to have been revealed in and through the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Christian ethics is thus a branch or particular application of general ethics. So far from being opposed to moral philosophy it is the inevitable outcome of the evolution of thought. For if the revelation of God through Christ is true, then it is a factor, and the greatest in life and destiny, which must condition man's entire outlook and give a new value to his aims and duties.

(1) Not an Opposition

In Christianity we are confronted with the motive power of a great Personality entering into the current of human history, and by His preëminent spiritual force giving a direction to the moral life of man. This means that the moral life can only be understood by reference to the creative power of this Personality. If there is any place at all for a distinct science of Christian ethics, that place can be indicated only by starting from the ethical ideal embodied in Christ, and working out from that point a code of morality for the practical guidance of the Christian life. But while this truth gives to Christian ethics its distinctive character and preëminent worth, it neither throws discredit upon philosophical ethics nor separates the two sciences by any hard-and-fast lines. They have much in common. A large domain of conduct is covered by both. The so-called pagan virtues have their worth for Christian character and are in the line of Christian virtues. Man even in his natural state is constituted for the moral life and is not without some knowledge of right and wrong (Romans 1:20 ). The moral attainments of the ancients are not simply "splendid vices." Duty may differ in content, but it is of the same kind under every system. Purity is purity, and benevolence benevolence, and both are excellences, whether manifested in a heathen or a Christian. While therefore Christian ethics takes its point of departure from the revelation of God and the manifestation of man's possibilities in Christ, it accepts and uses the results of moral philosophy in so far as they throw light upon the fundamental facts of human nature. As a system of morals Christianity claims to be inclusive. It takes cognizance of all the data of consciousness, and assumes all ascertained truth as its own. It completes what is lacking in other systems in so far as their conclusions are based on an incomplete survey of facts. Christian morals, in short, deal with personality in its highest ranges of moral power and spiritual consciousness, and seek to interpret life by its greatest possibilities and loftiest attainments as they have been revealed in Christ.

(2) Philosophical Postulates

As illustrating what has just been said two distinctive features of Christian morals may be noted, of which philosophical ethics takes little or no account:

(a ) Christian ethics assumes a latent spirituality in man awaiting the Spirit of God to call it forth. "Human nature," says Newman Smyth, "has its existence in an ethical sphere and for moral ends of being." There is a natural capacity for ethical life to which man's whole constitution points. Matter itself may be said to exist ultimately for spirit, and the spirit of man for the Holy Spirit (compare Rothe, Theologische Ethik , I, 459). No theory of man's physical beginning can interfere with the assumption that man stands upon a moral plane and is capable of a life which shapes itself to spiritual ends. Whatever be man's history and evolution, he has from the beginning been made in God's image, and he bears the Divine impress in all the lineaments of his body and soul. His degradation cannot wholly obliterate his nobility, and his actual corruption bears witness to his possible holiness. Christian morality is therefore nothing else than the morality prepared from all eternity, and is but the highest realization of that which heathen virtue was striving after. This is the Pauline view of human nature. Jesus Christ, according to the apostle, is the end and consummation of the whole creation. Everywhere there is a capacity for Christ. Man is not simply what he now is, but all that he is yet to be (1 Corinthians 15:47-49 ).

(b ) Connected with this peculiarity is another which further differentiates Christian ethics from philosophical - the problem of the re-creation of character . Speculative systems do not advance beyond the formation of moral requirements; they prescribe what ought ideally to be done or avoided. Christianity, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with the question, By what power can I achieve the right and the good? (compare Ottley, Christian Ideas and Ideals , 22). It regards human nature as in need of renewal and recovery. It points to a process by which character can be restored and transformed. It claims to be the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth (Romans 1:16 ). Christian ethics thus makes the twofold assumption, and in this its contrast to philosophical ethics is disclosed, that the ideal of humanity has been revealed in Jesus Christ and that in Him also there is supplied a power by which man may become his true self, all that his natural life gives promise of and potentially is.

(3) Method

Passing from a consideration of the data of Christian ethics to its method , we find that here again there is much that is common to philosophy and Christian morals. The method in both is the rational method. The Christian ideal, though given in Christ, has to be examined, analyzed and applied by the very same faculties as man employs in regard to speculative problems. All science must be furnished with facts, and its task is to give a consistent explanation of them. While the speculative thinker finds his facts in the constitution of the moral world at large, the Christian discovers his in Scripture, and more particularly in the teachings of Christ. But it is sufficient to point out that while the New Testament is largely occupied with ethical matters, there is no attempt at a scientific formulation of them. The materials of systematic treatment are there, but the task of coordinating and classifying principles is the work of the expositor. The data are supplied but these data require to be interpreted, unified and applied so as to form a system of ethics. Consequently in dealing with his facts, the same method must be employed by the Christian expositor as by the student of science. That is the method of rational inquiry and inductive procedure - the method imposed upon all mental problems by the essential nature of the mind itself. The authority to which Christian ethics appeals is not an external oracle which imposes its dictates in a mechanical way. It is an authority embodied in intelligible forms and appealing to the reasoning faculties of man. Christian ethics is not a cut-and-dried, ready-made code. It has to be thought out by man and brought to bear, through the instrumentality of his thinking powers, upon all the relationships of life. According to the Protestant view, at least, ethics is no stereotyped compendium of rules which the Bible or the church supplies to save a man from the trouble of thinking. It is a complete misapprehension of the nature of Scripture and of the purpose of Christ's example and teaching to assume that they afford a mechanical standard which must be copied or obeyed in a slavish way. Christ appeals to the rational nature of man, and His words are life and spirit only as they are apprehended in an intelligent way and become by inner conviction and personal appropriation the principles of thought and action:

6. Relation of Christian Ethics to Dogmatics

Within the domain of theology the two main constituents of Christian of teaching are dogmatics and ethics, or doctrine and morals. Though it is convenient to treat these separately, they really form a whole, and are but two sides of one subject. It is difficult to define their limits, and to say where dogmatics ends and ethics begins.

The distinction has sometimes been expressed by saying that dogmatics is a theoretic, while ethics is a practical science. It is true that ethics stands nearer to everyday life and deals with methods of practical conduct, while dogmatics is concerned with beliefs and treats of their origin and elucidation. But on the other hand ethics discusses thoughts as well as actions, and is interested in inner judgments not less than outward achievements. There is a practical side to all doctrine; and there is a theoretic side of all morals. In proportion as dogmatic theology becomes divorced from practical interest there is a danger that it may become mere pedantry. Even the most theoretic of sciences, metaphysics, while, as Novalis said, it bakes no bread, has its justification in its bearing upon life. On the other hand, ethics would lose all scientific value and would sink into a mere enumeration of duties if it had no dogmatic basis and did not draw its motives from beliefs. The common statement that dogmatics shows what we should believe and ethics what we should do is only approximately true and is inadequate. For moral laws and precepts are also objects of faith, and what we should believe involves a moral requirement and has a moral character.

(1) The Connection

Schleiermacher has been frequently charged with ignoring the differences between the two disciplines, but with scant justice; for while he regards the two studies as but different branches of Christian doctrine and while emphasizing their intimate connection, he by no means neglects their differences (compare Schleiermacher, Christliche Lehre , 1-24). Recent Christian moralists (Dorner, Martensen, Wuttke, Haering, Lemme) tend to accentuate the distinction and claim for them a separate discussion. The ultimate connection cannot indeed be overlooked without loss to both. It leads only to confusion to talk of a creedless morality, and the attempt to deal with moral questions without reference to their dogmatic implication will not only rob Christian ethics of its distinctive character and justification, but will reduce the exposition to a mere system of emotionalism. Dogmatics and ethics may be regarded as interdependent and mutually serviceable. On the one hand, ethics saves dogmatics from evaporating into unsubstantial speculation, and, by affording the test of life and workableness, keeps it upon the solid foundation of fact. On the other hand, dogmatics supplies ethics with its formative principles and normative standards, and preserves the moral life from degenerating into the vagaries of fanaticism or the apathy of fatalism.

(2) The Distinction

While both sciences form the complementary sides of theology, and stand in the relation of mutual service, ethics presupposes dogmatics and is based upon its postulates. Dogmatics presents the essence, contents and object of the religious consciousness; ethics presents this consciousness as a power determining the human will (Wuttke). In the one, the Christian life is regarded from the standpoint of dependence on God; in the other, from the standpoint of human freedom. Dogmatics deals with faith in relation to God, and as the receptive organ of Divine grace; ethics considers it rather in its relation to man as a human activity, and as the organ of conduct (compare Lemme, Christliche Ethik , I, 15). Doctrine shows us how our adoption into the kingdom of God is the work of Divine love; ethics shows us how this knowledge of salvation manifests itself in love to God and our neighbor and must be worked out through all the relationships of life (compare Haering).

(3) Theological Postulates

From this point of view we may see how dogmatics supplies to ethics certain postulates which may briefly be enumerated.

(A) The Christian Idea of God

God is not merely a force or even a creator as He is presented in philosophy. Divine power must be qualified by what we term the moral attributes of God. We do not deny His omnipotence, but we look beyond it to "the love that tops the power, the Christ in God." Moreover we recognize a gradation in God's moral qualities: ( a ) benevolence or kindness; ( b ) more deeply ethical and in seeming contrast to His benevolence, Divine justice - not mere blind benevolence but a kindness which is wise and discriminating (compare Butler); ( c ) highest in the scale of Divine attributes, uniting in one comprehensive quality kindness and justice, stands Divine love or grace . The God whom dogmatics postulates to ethics is God in Christ.

(B) The Christian Doctrine of Sin

It is not the province of ethics to discuss the origin of evil or propound a theory of sin. But it must see to it that the view it takes is consistent with the truths of revelation and in harmony with the facts of life. A false or inadequate conception of sin is as detrimental for ethics as it is for dogmatics, and upon our doctrine of evil depends very largely our view of life as to its difficulties and purposes, its trials and triumphs. Three views of sin have been held. According to some (e.g. the ancient Greeks) sin is simply a defect or shortcoming, a missing of the mark ( ἁμαρτία , hamartı́a , the active principle, or ἁμάρτημα , hamártēma , the result); according to others, it is a disease, a thing latent in the constitution or at least an infirmity or limitation inherent in the flesh and resulting from heredity and environment (see EVOLUTION ).

While there is truth in both of these views, by themselves, each separately, or both in combination, is defective. They do not sufficiently take account of the personal self-determinative element in all sin. It is a misfortune, a fate from which the notion of guilt is absent. The Christian view implies these conceptions, but it adds its own distinctive note which gives to them their value. Sin is not merely a negative thing, it is something positive, an inward dominating force. It is not merely an imperfection, or want; it is an excess, a trespass. It is not simply an inherited and inherent malady; it is a self-chosen perversion. It is not inherent in the flesh or animal impulses and physical passions: it belongs rather to the mind and will. Its essence lies in selfishness. It is the deliberate choice of self in preference to God. It is personal and willful rebellion. It is to be overcome, therefore, not by the suppression of the body or the excision of the passions, but by the acceptance of a new principle of life and a transformation of the whole man. There are of course degrees and stages of wrongdoing, and there are compensating circumstances which must be taken into account in estimating the significance of evil; but in its last resort Christian ethics postulates the fact of sin and regards it as personal rebellion against the holiness of God, as the deliberate choice of self and the willful perversion of all the powers of man into instruments of unrighteousness.

(C) The Responsibility of Man

A third postulate arises as a consequence from the Christian view of God and the Christian view of sin, namely, the responsibility of man . Christian ethics treats every man as accountable for his thoughts and actions, and therefore capable of choosing the good as revealed in Christ. While not denying the sovereignty of God or minimizing the mystery of evil and clearly recognizing the universality of sin, Christianity firmly maintains the doctrine of human freedom and accountability. An ethic would be impossible if, on the one side, grace were absolutely irresistible, and if, on the other, sin were necessitated, if at any single point wrongdoing were inevitable. Whatever be our doctrine on these subjects, ethics demands that freedom of the will be safeguarded.

At this point an interesting question emerges as to the possibility, apart from a knowledge of Christ, of choosing the good. Difficult as this question is, and though it was answered by Augustine and many of the early Fathers in the negative, the modern, and probably the more just, view is that we cannot hold mankind responsible unless we accord to all men the larger freedom. If non-Christians are fated to do evil, then no guilt can be imputed. History shows that a love for goodness has sometimes existed, and that many isolated acts of purity and kindness have been done, among people who have known nothing of the historical Christ. The New Testament recognizes degrees of depravity in nations and individuals and a measure of noble aspiration and earnest effort in ordinary human nature. Paul plainly assumes some knowledge and performance on the part of the heathen, and though he denounces their immorality in unsparing terms he does not affirm that pagan society was so utterly corrupt that it had lost all knowledge of moral good.

II. Historical Sketch of Ethics

A comprehensive treatment of our subject would naturally include a history of ethics from the earliest times to the present. For ethics as a branch of philosophical inquiry partakes of the historical development of all thought, and the problems which it presents to our day can be rightly appreciated only in the light of certain categories and concepts - such as end, good, virtue, duty, pleasure, egoism and altruism - which have been evolved through the successive stages of the movement of ethical thoughts. All we can attempt here, however, is the baldest outline of the different epochs of ethical inquiry as indicating the preparatory stages which lead up to and find their solution in the ethics of Christianity.

1. Greek Philosophy

(1) Sophists

All the great religions of the world - of India, Persia and Egypt - have had their ethical implicates, but these have consisted for the most part of loosely connected moral precepts or adages. Before the golden age of Greek philosophy there were no ethics in the strict sense. The moral consciousness of the Greeks takes its rise with the Sophists, and particularly with Socrates, who were the first to protest against the long-established customs and traditions of their land. The so-called "wise men" were in part moralists, but their sayings are but isolated maxims presenting no unity or connection. Philosophy proper occupied itself primarily with purely metaphysical or ontological questions as to the nature of being, the form and origin and primal elements of the world. It was only when Greek religion and poetry had lost their hold upon the cultured and the beliefs of the past had come to be doubted, that questions as to the meaning of life and conduct arose.

(2) Socrates

Already the Sophists had drawn attention to the vagueness and inconsistency of common opinion, and had begun to teach the art of conduct, but it was Socrates who, as it was said, first brought philosophy down from heaven to the sphere of the earth and directed men's minds from merely natural things to human life. He was indeed the first moral philosopher, inasmuch as, while the Sophists talked about justice and law and temperance, they could not tell, when pressed, what these things were. The first task of Socrates, therefore, was to expose human ignorance. All our confusion and disputes about good arise, says. Socrates, from want of clear knowledge. He aimed, therefore, at producing knowledge, not merely for its own sake, but because he believed it to be the ground of all right conduct. Nobody does wrong willingly. Let a man know what is good, that is, what is truly beneficial, and he will do it. Hence, the famous Socratic dictum, "Virtue is knowledge and vice is ignorance." With all his intellectualism Socrates was really a hedonist, believing that pleasure was the ultimate end of life. For it must not be imagined that he conceived of knowledge of virtue as distinct from interest. Everyone naturally seeks the good because the good is really identified with his happiness. The wise man is necessarily the happy man, and hence, "to know one's self" is to learn the secret of well-being.

(3) Plato

While Socrates was the first to direct attention to the nature of virtue, his one-sided and fragmentary conception of it received a more systematic treatment from Plato, who attempted to define the nature and end of man by his place in the cosmos. Plato thus brought ethics into intimate connection with metaphysics. He conceived an ideal world in which everything earthly and human had its prototype. The human soul is derived from the world-soul and, like it, is a mixture of two elements. On the one side, in virtue of reason, it participates in the world of ideas, or the life of God; and on the other, by virtue of its animal impulses, it partakes of the world of decay, the corporeal world. These two dissimilar parts are connected by an intermediate element, which Plato calls θυμός , thumós , embracing courage, the love of honor and the affections of the heart - a term which may be translated by the will. The constitution of the inner man is manifested in his outward organization. The head is the seat of reason, the breast of the heart and the affections, and the lower part of the body of the organs of animal desire. If we ask, Who is the just man? Plato answers, The man in whom the three elements just mentioned harmonize. We thus arrive at the scheme of the so-called "cardinal virtues" which have persisted through all ages and have given direction to all ethical discussion - wisdom , courage , temperance which, in combination, give us justice . It will thus be observed that virtue is no longer simply identified with knowledge; but another form of bad conduct besides ignorance is assumed, namely, the internal disorder and conflict of the soul, in which the lower impulses war with the higher. This, it will be seen, is a distinct advance on the one-sided position of Socrates; but in his attempt to reconcile the two movements in the conflict of life, Plato does not succeed in overcoming the duality. The inner impulses are ever dragging man down, and man's true well-being lies in the attainment of the life of reason. But though there are gleams of a higher solution in Plato, as a rule he falls back upon the idea that virtue is to be attained only by the suppression of the animal passions and the mortifying of the lower life. Plato affords us also the primal elements of social ethics. Morality as conceived by him is not something belonging merely to the individual, but has its full realization in the state. Man is indeed but-a type of the larger cosmos, and it is not as an individual but as a citizen that he is capable of realizing his true life.

(4) Aristotle

The ethics of Aristotle, while it completes, does not essentially differ from that of Plato. He is the first to treat of the subject formally as a science, which assumes in his hands a division of politics. For, as he says, man is really "a social animal"; and, even more decisively than Plato, he treats of man as a part of society. Aristotle begins his great work on ethics with the discussion of the chief good , which he declares to be happiness or well-being. Happiness does not consist, however, in sensual pleasure, or even in the pursuit of honor, but in a life of well-ordered contemplation, "an activity of the soul in accordance with reason" (Nic. Eth ., I, chapter v). But to reach the goal of right thinking and right doing, both favorable surroundings and proper instruction are required. Virtue is not virtue until it is a habit, and the only way to become virtuous is to practice virtue. It will thus be seen that Aristotle balances the one-sided emphasis of Socrates and Plato upon knowledge by the insistence upon habit. Activity must be combined with reason. The past and the present, environment and knowledge, must both be acknowledged as elements in the making of life. The virtues are thus habits, but habits of deliberate choice. Virtue is therefore an activity which at every point seeks to strike the mean between two opposite excesses. Plato's list of virtues had the merit of simplicity, but Aristotle's, though fuller, lacks system and consists generally of right actions which are determined in reference to two extremes. One defect which strikes a modern is that among the virtues benevolence is not recognized except obscurely as a form of liberality; and in general the gentler self-sacrificing virtues so prominent in Christianity have no place. The virtues. are chiefly aristocratic and are impossible for a slave. Again while Aristotle did well, in opposition to previous philosophy, to recognize the function of habit, it must be pointed out that habit of itself cannot make a man virtuous. Mere habit may be a hindrance and not a help to higher attainment. You cannot reduce morality to a succession of customary acts. But the main defect of Aristotle's treatment of virtue is that he regards the passions as wholly irrational and immoral. He does not see that passion in this sense can have no mean. If you may have too much of a good thing, you cannot have even a little of a bad thing. In man the desires and impulses are never purely irrational. Reason enters into all his appetites and gives to the body and all the physical powers an ethical value and a moral use. We do not become virtuous by curbing the passions but by transfiguring them into the vehicle of good. Aristotle, not less than Plato, is affected by the Greek duality which makes an antithesis between reason and impulse, and imparts to the former an external supremacy.

(5) Stoics and Epicureans

The two conflicting elements of reason and impulse which neither Plato nor Aristotle succeeded in harmonizing ultimately gave rise to two opposite interpretations of the moral life. The Stoics selected the rational nature as the true guide to an ethical system, but they gave to it a supremacy so rigid as to threaten the extinction of the affections. The Epicureans, on the other hand, seizing the doctrine that happiness is the chief good, so accentuated the emotional side of nature as to open the door for all manner of sensual enjoyment. Both agree in determining the happiness of the individual as the final goal of moral conduct. It, is not necessary to dwell upon the particular tenets of Epicurus and his followers. For though both Epicureanism and Stoicism, as representing the chief tendencies of ethical inquiry, have exercised incalculable influence upon speculation and practical morals of later ages, it is the doctrines of Stoicism which have more specially come into contact with Christianity.

(6) Stoicism

Without dwelling upon the stoic conception of the world, according to which the universe was a whole, interpenetrated and controlled by an inherent spirit, and the consequent view of life as proceeding from God and being in all its parts equally Divine, we may note that the Stoics, like Plato and Aristotle, regarded the realization of man's natural purpose as the true well-being or highest good. This idea they formulated into a principle: "Life according to Nature." The wise man is he who strives to live in agreement with his rational nature in all the circumstances of life. The law of Nature is to avoid what is hurtful and strive for what is appropriate; and pleasure arises as an accompaniment when a being obtains that which is fitting. Pleasure and pain are, however, to be regarded as mere accidents or incidents of life and to be met by the wise man with indifference. He alone is free, the master of himself and the world, who acknowledges the absolute supremacy of reason and makes himself independent of earthly desires. This life of freedom is open to all, for all men are equal, members of one great body. The slave may be as free as the consul and each can make the world his servant by living in harmony with it.

There is a certain sublimity in the ethics of Stoicism. It was a philosophy which appealed to noble minds and "it inspired nearly all the great characters of the early Roman empire and nerved every attempt to maintain the dignity and freedom of the human soul" (Lecky, History of European Morals , I, chapter ii). We cannot, however, be blind to its defects. With all their talk of Divine immanence and providence, it was nothing but an impersonal destiny which the Stoics recognized as governing the universe. "Harmony with Nature" was simply a sense of proud self-sufficiency. Stoicism is the glorification of reason, even to the extent of suppressing all emotion. It has no real sense of sin. Sin is un-reason, and salvation lies in the external control of the passions, in indifference and apathy begotten of the atrophy of desire. The great merit of the Stoics is that they emphasized inner moral integrity as the one condition of all right action and true happiness, and in an age of degeneracy insisted on the necessity of virtue. In its preference for the joys of the inner life and its scorn of the delights of sense; in its emphasis upon duty and its advocacy of a common humanity, together with its belief in the direct relation of each human soul to God, Stoicism, as revealed in the writings of a Seneca, a Marcus Aurelius and an Epictetus, not only showed how high paganism at its best could reach, but proved in a measure a preparation for Christianity with whose practical tenets, in spite of its imperfections, it had much in common.

(7) Stoicism and Paul

That there are remarkable affinities between Stoicism and Pauline ethics has frequently been pointed out. The similarity both in language and sentiment can scarcely be accounted for by mere coincidence. There were elements in Stoic philosophy which Paul would not have dreamed of assimilating, and features with which he could have no sympathy. The pantheistic view of God and the material conception of the world, the self-conscious pride, the absence of all sense of sin and need of pardon, the temper of apathy and the unnatural suppression of feelings - these were features which could not but rouse in the apostle's mind strong antagonism. But on the other hand there were certain well-known characteristics of a nobler order in Stoic morality which we may believe Paul found ready to his hand, ideas which he did not hesitate to incorporate in his teaching and employ in the service of the gospel. Without enlarging upon this line of thought (compare Alexander, Ethics of St. Paul ), of these we may mention the immanence of God as the pervading cause of all life and activity; the idea of wisdom or knowledge as the ideal of man; the conception of freedom as the prerogative of the individual; and the notion of brotherhood as the goal of humanity.

2. Scholasticism

It will be possible only to sketch in a few rapid strokes the subsequent development of ethical thought. After the varied life of the early centuries had passed, Christian ethic (so prominent in the Gospels and Epistles), like Christian theology, fell under the blight of Gnostieism (Alexandrian philosophy; compare Hatch, Hibbert Lectures ) and latterly, of Scholasticism. Christian truth stiffened into a cumbrous catalogue of ecclesiastical observances. In the early Fathers (Barnabas, Clement, Origen, Gregory), dogmatic and ethical teaching were hardly distinguished. Cyprian discussed moral questions from the standpoint of church discipline.

The first real attempt at a Christian ethic was made by Ambrose, whose treatise on the Duties is an imitation of Cicero's work of the same title. Even Augustine, notwithstanding his profound insight into the nature of sin, treats of moral questions incidentally. Perhaps the only writers among the schoolmen, except Alcuin ( Virtues and Vices ), who afford anything like elaborate moral treatises, are Abelard (Ethica , or Scito te Ipsum ), Peter Lombard (Sentences ), and, above all, Thomas Aquinas (Summa , II).

3. Reformation

Emancipation from a legal dogmatism first came with the Reformation which was in essence a moral revival. The relation of God and man came to be re-stated under the inspiration of Biblical truth, and the value and rights of man as man, so long obscured, were disclosed. The conscience was liberated and Luther became the champion of individual liberty.

Descartes and Spinoza

The philosophical writers who most fully express in the domain of pure thought the protestant spirit are Descartes and Spinoza, with whom speculation with regard to man's distinctive nature and obligations took a new departure. Without following the fortunes of philosophy on the continent of Europe, which took a pantheistic form in Germany and a materialistic tone in France (though Rousseau directed the thought of Europe to the constitution of man), we may remark that in England thought assumed a practical complexion, and on the basis of the inquiries of Locke, Berkeley and Hume into the nature and limits of the human understanding, the quest. ions as to the source of moral obligation and the faculty of moral judgment came to the front.

4. English Moralists

British moralists may be classified mainly cording to their views on this subject. Beginning with Hobbes, who maintained that man was naturally selfish and that all his actions were self-regarding, Cudworth, More, Wallaston, Shaftesbury, Hutchison, Adam Smith and others discussed the problem, with varying success, of the relation of individual and social virtues, agreeing generally that the right balance between the two is due to a moral sense which, like taste or perception of beauty, guides us in things moral. All these intuitional writers fall back upon a native selfish instinct. Selfishness, disguise it as we may, or, as it came to be called, utility , is really the spring and standard of action. Butler in his contention for the supremacy and uniqueness of conscience took an independent but scarcely more logical attitude. Both he and all the later British moralists, Paley, Bentham, Mill, suffer from a narrow, artificial psychology which conceives of the various faculties as separate and independent elements lying in man.

5. Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism is a scheme of consequences which finds the moral quality of conduct in the effects and feelings created in the subject. With all their differences of detail the representatives of theory are at one in regarding the chief end of man as happiness. Bentham and Mill made the attempt to deduce benevolence from the egoistic startingpoint. "No reason can be given," says Mill ( Utilitarianism , chapter iv), "why the general happiness is desirable except that each person ... desires his own happiness ... and the general happiness therefore is a good to the aggregate of all persons." Late utilitarians, dissatisfied with this non-sequitur and renouncing the dogma of personal pleasure, maintain that we ought to derive universal happiness because reason bids us (compare Sidgwick, Methods of Ethics , III, xiii). But what, we may ask, is this reason, and why should I listen to her voice?

6. Evolutionary Ethics

The intuitional theory has more recently allied itself with the hypothesis of organic evolution. "These feelings of self-love and benevolence are really," says Spencer, "the products of development. The natural instincts and impulses to social good, though existent in a rudimentary animal form, have been evolved through environment, heredity and social institutions to which man through his long history has been subject." But this theory only carries the problem farther back, for, as Green well says ( Proleg. to Ethics ), "that countless generations should have passed during which a transmitted organism was progressively modified by reaction on its surroundings till an eternal consciousness could realize itself ... might add to the wonder, but it could not alter the results."

7. Kant

The great rival of the pleasure-philosophy is that which has been styled "duty for duty's sake." This position was first taken by Kant whose principle of the "Categorical Imperative" utterly broke down theory of "pleasure for pleasure's sake." For Kant, conscience is simply practical reason; and its laws by him are reduced to unity. Reason, though limited in its knowledge of objects to phenomena of the senses, in the region of practice transcends the phenomenal and attains the real. The autonomy of the will carries us beyond the phenomenal into the supersensible world. Here the "Categorical Imperative" or moral law utters its "thou shalt" and prescribes' a principle of conduct irrespective of desire or ulterior end. In accordance with the nature of the Categorical Imperative, the formula of all morality is, "Act from a maxim at all times fit for law universal" ( Kritik d. praktischen Vernunft and Grundlage zur Metaphysik der Sitten ).

This principle is, however, defective. For while it determines the subjective or formal side of duty, it tells us nothing of the objective side, of the content of duty. We may learn from Kant the grandeur of duty in the abstract and the need of obedience to it, but we do not learn what duty is. Kant's law remains formal, abstract and contentless, without relation to the matter of practical life.

8. German Idealists

To overcome this abstraction, to give content to the law of reason and find its realization in the institutions and relationships of life and society, has been the aim of the later idealistic philosophy which starts from Kant.

(1) Hegel

Following Fichte, for whom morality is action according to the ideas of reason - selfconsciousness finding itself in and through a world of deeds - H egel starts with the Idea as the source of all reality, and develops the conception of Conscious Personality which, by overcoming the antithesis of impulse and thought, gradually attains to the full unity and realization of self in the consciousness of the world and of God. The law of Right or of all ethical ideal is, "Be a person and respect others as persons" (Hegel, Philosophie des Rechtes , section 31). These views have been worked out in recent British and American works of speculative ethics by Green, Bradley, Caird, McTaggart, Harris, Royce, Dewey, Watson.

Man as a self is rooted in an infinite self or personality. Our individual self-consciousness is derived from and maintained by an infinite eternal and universal self-consciousness. Knowledge is, therefore, but the gradual discovery of mind in things, the progressive realization of the world as the self-manifestation of an infinite Personality with whom the finite intelligence of man is one. Hence, morality is the gradual unfolding of an eternal purpose whose whole is the perfection of man.

(2) Watchwords: Pleasure and Duty

We have thus seen that in the history of ethics two great rival watchwords have been sounded - pleasure and duty , or, to put it another way, egoism and altruism. Both have their justification, yet each taken separately is abstract and one-sided. The problem of ethics is how to harmonize without suppressing these two extremes, how to unite social duty and individual right in a higher unity. We have seen that philosophical ethics has sought a synthesis of these conflicting moments in the higher and more adequate conception of human personality - a personality whose ideals and activities are identified with the eternal and universal personality of God. Christianity also recognizes the truth contained in the several types of ethical philosophy which we have passed under review, but it adds something which is distinctively its own, and thereby gives a new meaning to happiness and to duty, to self and to others.

Christian synthesis: Christianity also emphasizes the realization of personality with all that it implies as the true goal of man; but while Christ bids man "be perfect as God is perfect," He shows us that we only find ourselves as we find ourselves in others; only by dying do we live; and only through profound self-surrender and sacrifice do we become ourselves and achieve the highest good.

III. Principles and Characteristics of Biblical Ethics

The sketch of the history of ethics just offered, brief as it necessarily is, may serve to indicate the ideas which have shaped modern thought and helped toward the interpretation of the Christian view of life which claims to be the fulfillment of all human attempts to explain the highest good. We now enter upon the third division of our subject which embraces a discussion generally of Biblical ethics, dealing first with the ethics of the Old Testament and next with the leading ideas of the New Testament.

1. Ethics of the Old Testament

The gospel of Christ stands in the closest relation with Hebrew religion, and revelation in the New Testament fulfils and completes the promise given in the Old Testament. We have seen that the thinkers of Greece and Rome have contributed much to Christendom, and have helped to interpret Bible teaching with regard to truth and duty; but there is no such inward relation between them as that which connects Christian ethics with Old Testament morality. Christ himself, and still more the apostle Paul, assumed as a substratum of his teaching the revelation which had been granted to the Jews. The moral and religious doctrines which were comprehended under the designation of "the Law" formed for them, as Paul said (Galatians 3:24 , Galatians 3:25 ), a παιδαγωγός , paidagōgós , or servant whose function it was to lead them to the school of Christ. In estimating the special character of Old Testament ethics, we are not concerned with questions as to authenticity and dates of the various books, nor with the manifold problems raised by modern Biblical criticism. While not forgetting the very long period which these books cover, involving changes of belief and life and embracing successive stages of political society, it is possible to regard the Old Testament simply as a body of writings which represent the successive ethical ideas of the Hebrews as a people.

(1) Religious Characteristics of Hebrew Ethics

At the outset we are impressed by the fact that the moral ideal of Judaism was distinctly religious. The moral obligations were conceived as Divine commands and the moral law as a revelation of the Divine will. The religion was monotheistic. At first Yahweh may have been regarded merely as a tribal Deity, but gradually this restricted view gave place to a wider conception of God as the God of all men; and as such He was presented by the later prophets. God was for the Jew the supreme source and author of the moral law, and throughout his history duty was embodied in the Divine will. Early in the Pentateuch the note of law is struck, and the fundamental elements of Jewish morality are embedded in the story of Eden and the Fall. God's commandment is the criterion and measure of man's obedience. Evil which has its source and head in a hostile though subsidiary power consists in violation of Yahweh's will.

(A) The Decalogue

First among the various stages of Old Testament ethic must be mentioned the Mosaic legislation centering in the Decalogue (Ex 20; Dt 5). Whether the Ten Commandments issue from the time of Moses, or are a later summary of duty, they hold a supreme and formative place in the moral teaching of the Old Testament. All, including even the 4th, are purely moral enactments. But they are largely negative, only the 5th rising to positive duty. They are also chiefly external, regulative of outward conduct, forbidding acts but not taking note of intent and desire. The 6th and 7th commandments protect the rights of persons, while the 8th guards outward property. Though these laws may be shown to have their roots and sanctions in the moral consciousness of mankind and as such are applicable to all times and all men, it is clear that they were at first conceived by the Israelites to be restricted in their scope and practice to their own tribes.

(B) Civil Laws

A further factor in the ethical education of Israel arose from the civil laws of the land. The Book of the Covenant (Ex 20 through 23), as revealing a certain advance in political legislation and jurisprudence, may be regarded as of this kind. Still the hard legal law of retaliation - "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" - discloses a barbarous conception of right. But along with the more primitive enactments of revenge and stern justice there are not wanting provisions of a kindlier nature, such as the law of release, the protection of the fugitive, the arrangements for the gleaner and the institution of the Year of Jubilee.

(C) Ceremonial Laws

Closely connected with the civil laws must be mentioned the ceremonial laws as an element in the moral life of Israel. If the civil laws had reference to the relation of man to his fellows, the ceremonial laws referred rather to the relation of man to God. The prevailing idea with regard to God, next to that of sovereign might, was holiness or se

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Ethics'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/e/ethics.html. 1915.

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Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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